Addiction is a snake that wraps around your neck, slithering and squeezing you tighter and tighter until you are gasping for air. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, food, video games, or the computer screen, you stand by helplessly watching your loved one morph into an unrecognizable creature. You are wide-awake in a nightmare.
If you love an addict, you feel as if your life is fading away. You are unable to sleep, eat, work, socialize, or maintain friendships. Nights are spent staring into darkness. Your imagination conjures up scenes of your addict lying in the street, hoping and praying that someone is sober enough to get her (or him) home safely. You are powerless, frustrated, and losing your own life as your loved one spirals deeper and deeper into addiction.
There are many different levels to the wild cycle of addiction. From denial, stealing, lying, and rock bottoms; with promises of change only to bounce back for just one more go round.
While the addict falls into the dungeons of darkness, you are dragged down with him. Everyone suffers.
There is hope. Once you step back, you will be able to take positive action to get your life in order. Addiction causes chaos and confusion. In order to gain clarity and start your own healing process, ask yourself these questions.
1. What can I do?
Try as hard as you can to get your addict the help he/she needs. After you have exhausted every effort to get your loved one sober, you have to make the decision to live your life. You must take your own life back. It’s a decision you must make and remake daily. You deserve to live. You are still here.
2. How is this affecting the rest of my family and loved ones?
You probably don’t realize it, but there are other people in your life that need you, want you, and miss you. It’s easy to forget everyone else when every breath, step, and heartbeat of yours is being controlled by your addict’s choices.
3. Where’s the closest support group?
Find the closest support group-ASAP! The only person that understands what you are going through is someone who is going through the same thing. Friends try to help. People offer advice, but unless they are in the same situation, their words mean nothing. They do not understand your pain, fear, and helplessness.
4. Who’s my 3:00 a.m. friend?
Sleepless nights are frightening. You need someone you can call in the middle of the night. Even if you never call her, you need to know that you can. You need someone who will wake up from a deep sleep, hear your voice, sit up and listen to you. Talking is important, but be careful not to become obsessive talking only about your addict. Sometimes the only one there for you at 3:00 a.m. is your Higher Power. No phone calls required.
5. How can I change?
Set a customized program for your day. Structure your life. As the addict needs to structure his, you need to live on a schedule. Having too much free time allows your mind to travel into the dungeon of darkness. Don’t go there. Don’t fall into the trap. Get out of bed, take a walk, go to the gym, pray, listen to podcasts, repeat inspiration mantras throughout the day. 12 step programs are the tried and true effective method for dealing with addiction. However, not everyone responds to them the same. Find the program that works for you and work it! Live it, breathe it, every moment of every day.
6. Will meditation help?
When your thoughts are running wild and your heart is racing, sitting still and focusing your thoughts is the last thing you want to do. You probably want to run away from thoughts, not run into them. Ironically, the process of meditation benefits your negative thoughts, fears, and anxiety.
Meditation has many forms. A daily walk while reciting prayers or words of comfort (mantras work great) is also a form of meditation. Learn to comfort yourself. Have a toolbox of actions to take that will calm you when your heart starts pounding and your mind starts racing. Daily meditation is an exercise for your mind. It is a mind muscle that allows you to control your thoughts.
7. How is my breathing?
Addiction takes your breath away, literally. You don’t realize that when you spend most of your day worried about where your addict is, what she is doing, and if she’s okay; that you forget to breathe. Learn breathing techniques. QiGong, pranayama, Dr. Andrew Weil, and Thich Nhat Hanh all have easy to follow breathing exercises that work. If you practice them daily, you will benefit immediately.
8. When was the last time I laughed?
Addiction is also a thief that robs you of all joy, and takes away your smile. One of the simplest joys in life is laughter. Laughter is non-existent. Your smile has disappeared. You can’t remember the last time you had fun.
9. Do I love myself?
Love yourself enough to take back your own life. You deserve to live. You are alive. Start to live again. Separate yourself from your addict. Give the addict his own life to live. You can’t control it. You didn’t cause it. You can’t change it. Learn to detach. It doesn’t mean you are taking your love away. It means you are helpless and the addict has to figure out how to he wants to live his life.
10. What is my role in my addict’s life?
It’s hard to admit but often people who love addicts become addicted to their addict. You think about your loved one every minute of the day and night. You are one. There’s so separation between you. Co-dependency is unhealthy compassion in disguise.
11. Do I have healthy boundaries?
People who love addicts have a hard time setting limits. Loving, kind people have trouble saying no. They are givers who love passionately. Healthy boundaries are necessary for important decisions that you have to make regarding money, food, and where they will sleep.
12. Is my addict strong enough to survive on his own?
Addicts are slick, smart, strong, and tough. Don’t underestimate an addict’s ability to maneuver through situations. If they can handle addiction, they can handle anything. This is also their strength, their potential for greatness, once they get clean.
13. How do I surrender?
Let it go, all of it. Stop clinging to your dreams, desires, plans and schemes. You don’t know what’s best, even though you think you do. Letting go is a mantra; a chant that gets you through the pain, the fear, and the darkness. Repeat it over and over until you believe it. Let it permeate every cell of your being. Letting go is freedom.
14. What if I don’t have a Higher Power?
Find one. You cannot go through this alone. Whether it’s your religious beliefs or a “power greater than yourself,” you have to have someone to talk to when no one else is there. You have to pray to something and believe that your prayers will be heard. You have to believe that miracles can happen, because they do.
15. Can I survive this?
Yes! You will survive. You will smile again. You will laugh again. You will breathe again. Wake up early, go out and watch the sun rise. Look at the stars and the moon at night. Open your eyes and look around you. See all the people who surround you with love. Hug them, hold on to them. Open up your heart. Love again. Live again.